CINCINNATI (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday ordered Ohio's top elections official to verify the identity of newly registered voters by matching them with other government documents.
U.S. District Judge George C. Smith in Columbus ruled that Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner must perform verification required by the Help America Vote Act. That includes matching new registrants' information against information in databases maintained by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles or the Social Security Administration.
The order was the result of a lawsuit the Ohio Republican Party filed against Brunner, a Democrat.
"Plaintiffs assert, and the court agrees, that it is hard to imagine a public interest more compelling than safeguarding the legitimacy of the election of the president of the United States," Smith wrote in his ruling.
Brunner also was ordered to establish a process by which Ohio's 88 county election boards can access information generated by the checks.
Residents registering to vote must provide their name, address, date of birth and either their driver's license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number.
Brunner has said the state matches registration information against data in the Bureau of Motor Vehicles system and the Social Security database. But she also has said federal law doesn't say what should be done if a mismatch is discovered, and it is up to counties to check the system for flagged registrations and investigate if warranted.
An after-hours call seeking Brunner's comment on the ruling was not immediately returned Thursday.
Republicans, who have been at odds frequently with Brunner, hailed the ruling.